BANGKOK — August 30, 2017: Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended Malaysia’s large haul of gold medals in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games ending today, saying that it is normal for the host due to the better preparations they made.
Although applauding the admirable performance put up by Thai athletes, he noted that certain sports associations in the country are still beset by problems and wants it fixed once they return home.
“It is normal that the host country would get more (gold medals) following their preparations. It is the same when we were the host country, when we also could manage the types of sport and this time they (Malaysia) had better preparations,” he told the media at Government House.
Despite coming second behind Malaysia in the overall medal tally and losing the regional crown, Prayut insisted that he was still happy with their excellent performance and for putting up a good effort during the multi-sport games.
“I am happy that we finished in the second place even though I wanted them to finish first,” he said.
Prayut’s comments came following criticisms hurled by Thai media and fans against Malaysia and aspects of its hosting of the games, especially the officiating.
Besides criticising the hosts over issues like lack of food and transportation, they also accused Malaysia of committing unsportsmanlike behaviour in its quest to become overall champion.
The Bangkok Post in an article titled “An ugly tradition continues in Malaysia” today said that emotions are running high among Thai fans and journalists who vented their anger by dubbing the KL Games as “SEA Kong” or (SEA Cheating).
It also said that the head of the Thai contingent, Thana Chaiprasit, had claimed that the officiating was the worst compared to other SEA Games as well as the Olympic and Asian Games.
He also claimed officials from other countries shared his views.
Despite the harsh views by the Bangkok Post, another English daily, The Nation, was more introspective in its assessment of Thailand’s performance, choosing to blame the declining quality of its athletes.
In a scathing remark aimed at the country’s sports authorities, The Nation in its editorial several days ago said Thailand had largely failed in the KL Games.
“At Kuala Lumpur 2017, Thailand largely failed in international sports. In other words, if regional (traditional) sports performance is removed from the medal table, the kingdom will still trail Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam,” it said.
The inclusion of traditional sports in the Games, said the newspaper, has been used as an excuse by Thailand if it loses its regional domination to Malaysia but it cannot rely on this argument anymore. — Bernama